Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Upgrade -- a PSA about XC vests

With show season just around the corner, I decided to take inventory of all my stuff to purge and replace. I'm not a tack hoarder by any means, so I put a bunch of my stuff up for sale on Facebook and went through the rest of my gear to see what needed to be replaced.

Since I haven't done any xc riding in at least a year and a half -- I tried on my xc vest to see if it actually still fit me... it does, barely (as in, I kinda need assistance to get it zipped -- thanks a lot boobs). However, when I was looking through the labels on it something struck me... The tag that says when it was manufactured. It was stamped 2012 (October). Which got me thinking -- do XC vests have an expiration date?

Fell off this goon, more times than needed, thanks Rodney Powell for keeping me safe

It seems to be common knowledge that helmets should be replaced... Immediately in the case of a fall or being dropped but after 5 years of USE (according to most manufacturers) -- only a rider knows how they have maintained their gear, and some manufacturers go by the 2000 hours of use rule, so someone who rides for many hours every day may need to replace theirs earlier. I think if you keep your helmet in a trailer or your car, you may need to consider how the materials respond to temperature extremes and take that into account for its lifespan. And as with all tack and gear, periodically checking for damage and decay is a good idea too.

So I took my question to the masses and the response was VERY interesting (and varied):

So, I was left scratching my head a bit. There was even a comment from a GP dressage rider who also events at Training level that just read, "I did not know xc vests could expire." And while I am left thinking some of it IS a marketing thing to ensure constant sales over a period of time, I'm certain that there are research and studies that show how the materials hold up over time. After all, they have to pass a series of testing to receive a stamp from ASTM/SEI... and furthermore for Beta 3 validation.

While my vest is in visually very good condition, based on the manufacturers recommendation it should be replaced (most go by how many years the item was used, not based on the manufacture stamp) -- I believe my vest was purchased in 2013, which still means it should be replaced, even though I haven't worn it in at least a year or longer.

I knew right away I wanted another Beta 3 vest as that's what I had before and I love how safe it felt. I dunno about you guys but I get real nervous watching people go xc in those flimsy Tipperary's. I was really pleased when I discovered that after 5 years they have redesigned the Rodney Powell's to keep up with the growing trend of having a high level of safety, with breathability and flexibility throughout the design. The new one is definitely designed more like the Airoware, and looks to be much more streamlined.

Old design

New and improved

When I was originally searching for a xc vest I had a hell of a time finding something that fit the front of my body but that didn't come down so far in the back that it impeded me in the saddle. At one point Charles Owen was going to custom make one by piecing together a front from one size and a back from another size. That felt like a whole lot of trouble for the price point. So I researched vests that were designed with shorter back panels which led me to Rodney Powell in the first place. I like the material inside the vest which as your body heats up it conforms even further to the shape of your body, making it feel very custom made.

The only problem with this brand is that they are VERY scarce in the US and the new design is nearly impossible to find anywhere! I was so super excited when I realized they made the new design in grey, that I went on a mad search everywhere for it, to no avail. Sold out or back-ordered everywhere! *I guess that's a good sign!

Thankfully, my brother lives in London and this morning I sent him an email titled "Wanna go on a wild goose chase for me?" and just like that, he sends me a screenshot of an order confirmation!!!! What a guy! He said he found it for wayyyy less expensive than it's even advertised online for possibly due to the VAT upcharges a lot of companies have to apply in their pricing structure.

So it'll be in my hands in a few weeks, well ahead of any xc with Scout (who come home in less than two weeks)-- and I'm eager to give it a more thorough review.

This simple purchase really got me thinking though about how we (riders as a whole) view our gear and our expectations of its longevity and guarantee of safety. I really wish the USEA was more strict about the requirements for xc vests in competitions, (currently, they only have to be ASTM/SEI certified, not Beta 3) and that they held riders competing to a higher standard also.

So what say you bloggers? Do you hold to the standards with your helmets and vests? DO you have opinions either way? I'm so curious!


  1. I wish manufacturers were more clear about how often their stuff should be replaced. Almost surgeon general style warning on the side of the box, or maybe a tag inside the helmet that says (replace on or after 3/2019) so it's easy to tell.

    I had a GPA helmet for 10 years and I get really horrified thinking about riding in it now. Especially because I'm pretty sure it got kicked and I didn't replace it. I'm lucky I didn't fall and get seriously hurt!

  2. Very interesting - even though I don't event and don't have a vest, it's good to know the information.

  3. That's super cool about your brother finding the vest cheaper for you! How very fortunate.

    I'm very good about replacing helmets, but hadn't even thought about my vest!

  4. Ooh I’ve never thought about this either! I imagine the foam does have a shelf life (esp if it’s been subjected to big temperature swings like living in the trunk of a car, for example), but it’s probably not quite the same as a helmet that has the huge job of, among other things, protecting against concussion. I love my beta 3 certified vest too, also purchased from the uk lol. Hope you like yours!!

  5. I replaced my vest as it had multiple falls, was 5+ years old, and also, I wanted the new ones with more airflow.

  6. I love my flimsy Tipp! I was trampled on, had a good print on my chest and I didn’t feel a thing. So while flimsy they work. However, I believe best rules have changed and I can’t get any clarification on what’s happening in Canada so I likely need a new one!

  7. hmm interesting on the shorter back of it which I need. I need a new vest if i want to show this year. I will have to look at these. Also my inlaws are in UK so can send THEM on a wild goose chase? HA!

    My own vest (I had two sold one to a kid just starting out) is at least 4 years old if not older and is just a Tipp. I just am squat, short and wide. I hate not trying them on. UGH Which is why i haven't bought one. So maybe one from UK won't work. UGH...:)

    glad you got one on the way!! :)

  8. I love my RP & agree with you on much of this. As far as vest expirations, the 5-yr rule comes from basic materials science, as all impact absorbing foams to degrade over time no matter where they are kept. This applies to helmets, vests, saddle pads, etc.

    I am a firm adherent to my solid vest when I wear one & also require a Beta approval like you - I know enough about physics to be very particular about my safety equipment! I do replace helmets after a fall or the 5 years. If I start doing more stuff where I want the vest, I'll definitely look into replacement, but we are a ways yet from any of that.

    Thanks for the tip on the new RPs, I also love that warm-to-fit foam they use, I had to get custom on my old one due to my weird shape.